It’s Happening: Coronavirus Fears Hit Sin City

Following a week of exponential spread of the novel coronavirus worldwide, the White House and Google have halted planned conferences in Las Vegas, citing the virus as their primary concern. For both the White House and Google, the conferences in question were set to happen in March. As of now, there are no reported cases of the coronavirus in Nevada, but officials are preparing for an outbreak of the extremely infectious new illness.

A yellow stamp reading CORONAVIRUS overlays an image of two people wearing baseball caps, sunglasses, and protective medical face masks.

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, officials are increasingly postponing major international events. ©geralt/Pixabay

With A Looming Outbreak, Everyone Is Playing It Safe

The decision for the White House and Google to cancel their planned conferences in March of this year comes after ongoing reports of the novel coronavirus outbreak, also known as COVID-19, a respiratory illness which first emerged just a number of weeks ago in Wuhan, China.

Because the illness is unprecedented in humans, its effects, spread, and severity are still unknown. What we learned in the last week, however, was that the novel virus is extremely contagious, and has now affected people in at least 60 countries in every continent of the world excluding Antarctica.

As of right now, the United States has not yet dealt with the extent of the coronavirus threat in the same way that other countries, such as China, Italy, Japan, and South Korea, have. Still, new reports show that the illness could travel for weeks at a time undetected — and possibly already has in the US — making many nervous.

Because of this, the organizers of events around the world — not just in Las Vegas — are postponing major events for the next several months. Already, massive annual functions including the Geneva Motor Show, have pulled the plug on their set date. Still, many, including the organizers of these events, are hoping they can be up and running by summer.

Preparing for the Possibility of Coronavirus in Vegas

In a meeting held last week by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak with a variety of regional officials on the local, state, federal, and tribal levels, Nevada representatives worked to prepare for the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak in their state. One of the main issues considered was the high number of international conventions held in Las Vegas.

And they weren’t wrong to think about that. After all, conventions are a huge reason people travel to Las Vegas. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 6.64 million people came to Sin City in 2019 for conferences. Now, imagine all of those people coming to a city with a rapidly spreading infectious virus.

The White House Postpones Las Vegas Summit

One of the postponements in Vegas since news outlets began warning the United States to brace for a coronavirus outbreak within its borders was the decision from the White House to put off an upcoming conference with leaders from Asia. The planned conference, known as ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), was set to happen March 14.

In a statement from a Trump administration official, the “difficult decision” was made in collaboration with the organizers of ASEAN. The spokesperson expressed regret at having to postpone the March 14 conference, a significant annual event typically attended by leaders of many countries in Asia, as well as the President of the United States.

This is not the only event with international leaders postponed by the US President following the severe international outbreak of COVID-19. Last week, the White House also decided to postpone a scheduled visit by the chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, which was scheduled to take place on March 3.

Looking Out for Their Employees, Google Follows Suit

In time with the White House decision, tech giant Google has postponed an upcoming conference that was set to happen this month in Las Vegas. The event was supposed to be a major internal event discussing sales and marketing, which would bring together thousands of Google employees from around the world.

Like the White House — and other international events attracting global audiences — the difficult decision was made due to fears of spreading COVID-19, which has already killed more than 2,800 people around the world. Analysts wonder if the decision will also affect an upcoming Game Developers Conference set for March 16 in San Francisco.

And Google has already been touched by the virus: according to a leaked internal memo, a Google employee was diagnosed with the coronavirus after traveling to an affected area. In the same memo, Google higher-ups announced that employee travel to and from South Korea and Japan will be banned beginning March 2.

Macau: A Portent of What’s To Come?

Those following the fallout of the coronavirus on the international economy have noted that fears of the coronavirus, as well as the refusal of airlines to fly to or from many locations within China, have driven tourism away from Macau, the world’s capital of gambling. The city makes 80% of its revenue annually from the gaming industry.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony, has, like Vegas, become renowned for its beloved casinos, which typically attract visitors from around the world. Even prior to the outbreak, though, Macau’s superstar numbers were beginning to falter, offset by tough sanctions from the US and ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

It certainly didn’t help that, in time, 7 cases of the novel coronavirus were discovered in Macau. Though all seven have since recovered, the outbreak inspired city officials to shutter all gambling establishments for 15 days. As such, February revenues for Macau plummeted 87.8% from the year before.

Could this be what happens in Las Vegas? Only time will tell, but US officials are playing it safe.

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